Also in attendance were fellow gin bloggers, Gin Monkey & Gin Foundry, the Master Distiller of Few Spirits, Paul Hletko, Kirsty Chant of Chant Communications and people from Imbibe, The Whiskey Exchange, Ginuine Spirits, Boutique Brands and many more (who I apologise for omitting).
Quite frankly, I was a little overwhelmed.
Anyway, enough of the people, we’re all more interested in the gin.
This was a blind tasting. The gins were decanted into identical brown bottles, numbered one through six. We were asked to not discuss among ourselves which gins we thought were which, in order to avoid influencing each other’s perceptions. I had only tried one navy strength gin before, so I wouldn’t have been doing much in the way of guessing – this is the amazing part of this evening; last year, you would have been hard-pressed to find more than one navy-strength gin to try (Plymouth, of course).
1) Few Standard Issue Gin
This gin had a really sweet, pungent nose (I could smell it before the bottle even got to me), very grainy – almost malted. There were hints of anise/fennel and a slightly fishy odour.
In the mouth, it was intense, rich and oily. The juniper was slightly rough and there was discernible coriander. It was a sweet, rooty gin and the intensity made it hard to pick out individual components. It finished with a lingering dry burn.
Post-tasting experimentation: The addition of tonic water resulted in a cloudy G&T. I am guessing that the tonic knocked a load of oil out of solution. This was a really potent tipple that can stand mixing at weaker ratios (4:1, possibly even 5:1).
2) Plymouth Navy Strength Gin
On the nose, the alcohol was dominant with undertones of pine, lemon and coriander.
In the mouth, Plymouth had a smooth, sweet attack. The sweetness rides through the whole experience only fading at the dry, biting after-taste with warming citrus. Orris and liquorice were quite noticeable.
This was a very traditional gin with no real stand-out botanicals – it was a very well-balanced gin.
In some ways, this blew me away as, previously, I have been underwhelmed by Plymouth. I certainly need to revisit this gin.
3) Perry’s Tot Gin
The nose was clean and balanced; very balanced indeed.
This was quite a mild gin with a sweet attack. There were hints of pine and coriander but the main element was lemon. The finish was really interesting; while the attack and mid-pallet was mild and somewhat classic, the finish was pretty intense and complex with a peppery/spicy, herbal roller-coaster. I am not sure there wasn’t some sort of berry fruit in the tail, but I may have been imagining it.
This is definitely a gin I want to sample in greater depth and at my leisure.
4) Master of Malt’s Bathtub Gin, Navy Strength
This gin was yellow, suggesting either barrel-aged or a bathtub gin.
Pow, Cinnamon! This was another gin I could smell before the bottle reached me and what I could smell was cinnamon.
In the mouth, the cinnamon was really dominant and it reminded me of winter mixture (if you know what that is, then you are showing your age). There was definitely cardamom and liquorice in there too. This was another fairly sweet gin.
Post-tasting experimentation: I tried this with apple juice and it was like drinking apple pie from a glass and pleased me no-end.
5) Hayman’s Royal Dock Navy Strength Gin
This gin had a nose full of creamy juniper.
In the mouth, it was a very traditional gin; sweet, earthy roots and lemony citrus, lots of sweet liquorice. It had quite a potent after-bite.
Adding some water really killed this gin dead – turned it flat and lifeless. This makes me wonder how it would mix with something like tonic water; would this kill it too?
I mistook this for Plymouth.
6) Leopold’s Navy Strength American Gin
On the nose, this gin had hints of orris and angelica and a soapy hit of bergamot. The alcohol smell was very well contained – probably the most well contained of the night.
In the mouth, this was a really very floral gin with the parma violet of orris being very forward. There are hints of geranium and spicy coriander. The bergamot from the nose bridges the floral and the citrus well. Several people mentioned rose, but I couldn’t find it.
On the night, I rated Leopold’s the highest. I really like a floral gin with backbone and this really did it for me, although I can see it not being everyone’s cup of tea.
I need to get myself a bottle of this.
Some of these gins really masked their high alcohol content well, others less so. The spectrum of flavours was also a great surprise – I thought that there would be a certain level of conformity but distilleries have really gone out there and thrust a stake in the ground to mark out their territory in the Navy Strength game.
Many thanks to David for organising this and inviting me; it was a blast.